Charge d’affaires’ Robert W. Thomas Remarks Letter of agreement Signing Ceremony with Dominican Government

April 28, 2021

Mr. President, distinguished members of the cabinet, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen:  It is an honor to participate in this ceremony with you, and I am especially looking forward to co-chairing with you, Mr. President, the dialogue we will hold immediately following this event.

We are here today to renew our commitment to the Dominican Republic, and to support the ambitious reform agenda of the Abinader Administration.

For decades, the U.S. Embassy has worked with successive Dominican administrations to implement reforms to advance transparency, strengthen rule of law, and reform the police.  Together, we have had some notable successes.

That said, I am not sure there has ever been a time before when our reform agendas have overlapped with a Dominican administration to the extent they do today.  Mr. President, the changes we have seen across the Dominican government towards greater transparency, and your desire to consolidate them for future generations through long-term institutional reform, have the potential to be transformative for this country.

My team from the U.S. Embassy is here today because we want to be your partner in that effort. 

The Foreign Minister and I have just signed an agreement that will directly contribute to this effort.  Through this agreement, the U.S. government will provide $6.6 million dollars in support over the next year to increase law enforcement professionalization, expand counter-narcotics capabilities, counter transnational organized crime, and bring greater accountability in the application of justice in the Dominican Republic.   

This is the first time we are signing such an agreement with President Abinader’s administration, but it builds on eight years of continuous support from the United States to the Dominican Republic in this sector.  Since 2013, we provided over $54 million in assistance through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to the Dominican Republic to help address shared security concerns.

This assistance has supported programs that have directly improved the lives of the Dominican people, in areas ranging from the creation of the Dominican Republic’s first 911 system—in which the U.S. government has invested $20 million to date—to the development of the DNCD’s canine training academy, to the digitization of Supreme Court records, which will directly improve access to the justice system for Dominican citizens.

Today’s this agreement will allow us to do even more, together.  One initiative we intend to prioritize is to facilitate the process of accreditation of the DNP by an internationally-recognized authority, such as the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA).  

Under this process, we would work with the DNP to ensure its compliance with an established set of professional policing standards, on areas ranging from use of force protocols, to police accountability mechanisms, to other issues.

On the subject of police reform, let me make one thing clear: we are not engaging in this effort with your government because we think we have all the answers.  We join you in this effort, knowing our own struggles in the United States make us mindful and humble about the challenges we all face.  We have learned from our successes, as well as from our failures, and we are happy to share that knowledge with our friends and partners.

This path to reforming our institutions is how we perfect our democratic governments – and that path is one that all like-minded democracies walk together.  The United States is honored to partner with you on the road ahead.

There are other countries in the world that offer a different type of assistance to security forces—assistance that may appear desirable but that ultimately threatens the human rights and civil liberties of those who enjoy the benefits of a free and democratic society.  The U.S. provides assistance that protects those fundamental principles, and we offer this assistance without conditions.

Today’s dialogue, however, is not just about police reform.  We are also here because we see great promise in your administration’s commitment to fighting corruption and advancing transparency.  

On that note, one issue we plan to discuss today is ongoing efforts at public procurement reform.  As you know, some of the highest-profile and most damaging corruption cases in recent years have involved abuse of the public procurement system.  The U.S. government has supported your government’s efforts to identify improvements to the public procurement system that are reflected in your priority draft legislation on public procurement.  We want to work with you to help anchor these changes in law.

We also want to work with you to advance legislative efforts to create a system of civil asset forfeiture, which will allow your government to recover the assets and wealth that criminals and corrupt officials have stolen from the state and from the Dominican people.  I know this is a top priority for you, and after several failed attempts in the past, we believe passing this legislation could be an important achievement for the Dominican people and we will support your administration’s efforts to develop this important tool. 

We also look forward to discussing ways we can work with the Camara de Cuentas to improve its role as an independent oversight entity, a function that is critical for transparent, democratic societies.  Your government has already taken an important step towards that goal thanks to the historic achievement of a transparent selection process.  We look forward to supporting additional reform efforts that help achieve the goals of the new leadership of this important mechanism.

Lastly, we believe we can assist the Dominican Republic in combating the scourge of trafficking in persons.  Mr. President, you have already taken some remarkable strides to move the country forward in this area.  Your Attorney General’s efforts to improve management at the Procuradoria, and the program you facilitated for Venezuelan migrants have had a huge positive impact.  We know that together we can help to support your continued efforts to eradicate trafficking and end modern day slavery.

Let me conclude by noting that the United States provides this support because we truly believe that we are safer when our friends are safe.  We prosper when they prosper.  That is especially true here in Dominican Republic, where the relationship is so strong and so deep.  Our futures will always be linked, and as democratic nations, we know that by trusting each other and supporting each other we can overcome any obstacle.

Thank you again, President Abinader, for your leadership and continued commitment to deepening the relationship between our nations.  It is an honor to help you advance the ambitious reforms that will deliver real change, and keep all of us safer.  It is a privilege to stand here with you today representing two vibrant democracies, and to work side by side with your team.  Together, we continue the important work that all democracies share – the continual push to perfect our governments, to deliver transparency, safety, accountability, and good government to the people we serve.